Tuesday, September 30, 2008

157. Faces of Fear

Faces of Fear by John Saul

Pages: 324
Finished: Sept. 29, 2008
First Published: Aug. 12, 2008
Genre: psychological suspense, thriller
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: I received the book for review from Random House Canada. Qualifies for the Rip III challenge.

First sentence:

He had to look.

Comments: A plastic surgeon's wife, a famous model, kills herself because she was disfigured in an horrific accident. A year later plastic surgeon Conrad Dunn and divorced Risa Shaw are married. At the same time a serial killer is on the loose. Women are being murdered for their body parts; a nose here, a pair of ears there, or a set of lips somewhere else. Risa's ex-husband is the editor for the local TV station and one of their top reporters is using the serial killer case to move up the career ladder.

I have only read John Saul's earlier work and was expecting a horror/supernatural tale, which this is not. However, it does contain the same gripping, chilling feel of something terribly unnatural going on. I enjoyed the book on the same level as I do other serial killer books (one of my favourite genres). The dialogue was a bit off, it felt unrealistic and fake at times but otherwise my only problem was that I thought I'd figured out who the killer was early on and while I was right, there was a big twist which surprised me enough to not be let down by solving part of the mystery. Regular fan's of Saul's will enjoy the book, as will those just looking for a quick read serial killer type of thriller.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday: Review Books in the Mail

Last week I only received one book in the mail and the reviews I'm seeing are very positive. It's just my kind of book too, psychological thriller.

So this week I'm one book up but I read and reviewed two books, so I actually have the arc tbr pile down one! Small progress but it keeps me thinking I'll get it under control one day!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

156. Night Runner

Night Runner by Max Turner

Pages: 261
Finished: Sept. 27, 2008
First Published: Sept. 8, 2008 (Canada only)
Genre: YA, paranormal
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: I received the book from Harper Collins Canada. Qualifies for the Rip III challenge. Qualifies for the Canadian challenge.

First sentence:

My name is Daniel Zachariah Thomson.

Comments: Zack is an orphan. His father died in an accident when Zack was four. Zach was there as well and was sent to the hospital in a coma. After awakening from the coma it is discovered he has a mysterious disease. He is allergic to all food and the sun. After moving from hospital to hospital he is finally confined to a hospital for mental patients and it is there that he grows up drinking special brain food drinks, sleeping during the day and waking for the night.

Then one day his favourite nurse disappears, a strange man on a motorcycle crashes through the reception windows leaving Zack with a unusual message. Later that day a large, mysterious man shows up in his bedroom, wakes him and claims to be his uncle.

Thus starts a tale where Zack finds out he is a vampire, his father was a vampire hunter and the very strong vampire who killed his father is now after him. He meets up with many people and places his trust in certain ones, yet the reader is left with an uneasy feeling that people may not be who they appear to be.

This is one of the best vampire books I've read in a while. Turner has created his own vampire mythos which maintains only a select portion of traditional vampire lore. Turner's vampire world is unique and refreshing. The writing was sharp and the dialogue realistic. The tension and pace of the book started off with a bang and didn't let up till the end. And even then, while the story is wrapped up there are many openings for a sequel and I certainly hope the author is planning to continue the story of these characters. For a first time writer, Max Turner has done a brilliant job. This book will appeal to all but especially to teen boys. It's tough being a Canadian writer and even tougher to be a Canadian YA writer. Hopefully, this book will see international publication as it is much deserved. Highly recommended to vampire fans and worth paying the shipping from Canada to get yourself a copy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

155. The Lovliest Woman in America

The Loveliest Woman in America: A Tragic Actress, Her Lost Diaries, and her Granddaughter's Search for Home by Bibi Gaston

Pages: 335
Finished: Sept. 26, 2008
First Published: June 10, 2008
Genre: nonfiction, memoir, biography
Rating: 3/5

Reason for Reading: Book was sent to me by the publisher, William Morrow.

First sentence:

For forty-three years, all I knew was that Rosamond was beautiful and that she had killed herself.

Comments: This is the story of Rosamond Pinchot told through the eyes of her granddaughter and Rosamond's own diaries which she kept for many years. Rosamond was a stage actress in the 1920's who garnered great fame and later tried to get into film, and while she did appear in a few movies, she never reached any fame or satisfaction through that venue. She killed herself at age 33 leaving behind two sons from a very rocky marriage to Big Bill Gaston.

Not only is this the story of Rosamond, it is also the story of the two Manhattan society families the Pinchots and the Gastons. It also is the story of Rosamond's descendants, her first born son William (Billy) and his youngest daughter Bibi (the author). Part memoir and part biography the book presents how suicide affects future generations and how feuding within a family creates a rift in one generation that continues on through the ages.

I enjoyed this book on some levels but not very much on others. I loved the story of the 20's and 30's. The tale of Manhattan, the theatre and Hollywood in this era was enjoyable as was the tale of Rosamond's sad life. The personal diary entries brought this all to life and the woman led both a fairy tale and traumatic life. The story of her son, William, held no interest for me. He was a man who felt he was cheated by his brother and devoted his life to legal endeavours against both his ex-wife and brother. As well, the author's own story is implanted into the biographies and the biography within a memoir doesn't do the trick for me personally. The author tries to relate how her life was affected by Rosamond's suicide and how family patterns continue through the generations. She succeeds on this point but I, personally, am not interested in that type of memoir. A non-biased portrait of Rosamond's life or the publication of her diaries themselves would have made a more interesting and enjoyable read for me.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

154. The Discovery of the Americas

The Discovery of the Americas: From Prehistory Through the Age of Columbus by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

Pages: 48
Finished: Sept. 24, 2008
First Published: 1991
Genre: children, non fiction, history
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: read aloud to my 8yo for school

First sentence:

Many thousands of years ago, the world was a very different place.

Comments: A history of North America from land bridge theory to Magellan's trip around the world. Presented in a large picture book format the text is appropriate for ages 6 and up. The illustrations are vivid, bright, detailed and interesting. Maps help visualize all exploration routes. My son enjoyed the book very much and certainly retained the information. I found it an enjoyable book to read aloud and thought the narrative text was interesting. The only problems I had was that the land bridge theory was presented as fact rather than theory. As a Christian, I was content with the prehistory portions and simply substituted the words many years for exaggerated thousands of years. One page talked about the brutal, mean Christians and can easily be skipped and I found no anti-Catholicism. Overall, an enjoyable book to learn about the early explorers.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday: New Books in the Mail

This was a very bad week for me and I hardly got any reading done at all (2 books) and neither of those were arcs. On the other hand it was an immensely fun week for receiving books in the mail.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of Farworld from Literary Feline. Thanks Wendy! This has been getting rave reviews and I'm excited to have my own copy, personally inscribed by the author!

Then the publishers were busy sending me Fall arcs:

When will I ever get caught up? I can't wait to read each and every one of these.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

153. The Mystery of Mary Rogers

The Mystery of Mary Rogers by Rick Geary
The Treasury of Victorian Murder, Book 5

Pages: unpaginated
Finished: Sept. 20, 2008
First Published: 2001
Genre: graphic novel, true crime
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: next in the series. RIP III Challenge.

First sentence:
On this sweltering day,m New Yorkers in droves sought to escape the foul air of the city and enjoy the wooded glades and cool breezes of the New Jersey shore.

Comments: This true story details the life and murder of Mary Rogers, a girl who worked in a tobacconists and whose mother ran a boarding house. The body of girl was found floating in the river and quickly identified as the Mary Rogers. Nothing out of the ordinary happened in her day to day life except for a plethora of suitors. She chose one an became engaged but shortly thereafter she disappeared and was found in the river. The movements of her last hours are questionable and add the to mystery surrounding who murdered her. There is even a belief that she may not have been murdered. Edgar Allen Poe wrote a story inspired by Mary's death "The Mystery of Marie Roget" and has even been accused by theorists over the years as being the killer! The murder, remains unsolved to this day.

Not much more to say about this than I have said about the others in this series. Wonderful dark, shadowy artwork fits the mood of the story perfectly. This is one of my favourites so far, after the Lizzie Borden one. I think these books will interest anyone interested in Victorian life, whether they have read graphic novels before or not. I can't wait to read the next one!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

152. Hunters of the Dusk

Hunters of the Dusk by Darren Shan
Book 7 of The Saga of Darran Shan

Pages: 208
Finished: Sept. 16, 2008
First Published: 2002
Genre: YA, horror
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: next in the series. RIP III Challenge.

First sentence:

It was an age of tragic mistakes.

Comments: I've come this far in this series that I've realized that each 3 books contain a story arc within the main plot of the series. This makes Book 7 the start of a new adventure for Darren, this time he and his companions, are on a quest to kill the Lord of the Vampaneze before he becomes fully blooded. This will make no sense to anyone who hasn't read the series but it's all I can say without giving away spoilers of previous books.

New characters are introduced in this book which I loved, especially the witch, Evanna. Darren Shan keeps these books fresh by adding new characters throughout the series. Plus we also see all the favourite characters who have travelled through each successive book. I was thrilled when Darren and Mr. Crepsley made a return visit to the Cirque du Freak in this book. I've been hoping that would happen. It was a brief visit but my desire was sated. Is there a YA vampire series out there any better than this one? I highly doubt it! If you like vampire books,run, don't walk, and get yourself a copy of the first book Cirque du Freak (A Living Nightmare) immediately.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday: Review Copies in the Mail

Last week was a slow mail week and a slow reading week so everything turned out fine in the end. I received one review book from the publishers last week and read and reviewed one arc, making my arc tbr pile the same as the week before.

And then I received a book I was lucky enough to win over at The Book Smugglers. This one is an arc as well but since I won it I'm not counting it as one of my official must review ASAP arcs. But it sure does look good! Thanks Ana & Thea!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

151. Home

Home by Marilynne Robinson

Pages: 324
Finished: Sept. 12, 2008
First Published: Sept. 2, 2008
Genre: realistic fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

First sentence:

"Home to stay, Glory! Yes!" her father said, and her heart sank.

Comments: How to start a review on this book? There is very little plot. Jack, black-sheep of the Reverend Boughton's family, returns home after a twenty year absence. At home is his younger sister, who has fallen upon hard times and his dying father, the Reverend. The book revolves around the characters and how they interact.

The Reverend Boughton desperately wants to know the condition of Jack's soul before he dies. Jack is unable to give him this solace though he tries. Jack has sinned deeply during his twenty year absence and yet there are glimpses into a good person, which the reader of Gilead will already know. So here is a man both sinner and worker of grace. Yet, unable to tell his father his secrets.

The theme of parental disappointment in their own adult child is also strong and I was particularly hit with this quotation from the book. I think this is a feeling that many parents of grown children who have strayed from the path will resonate with.

"Kinder to him! I thanked God for him every day of his life, no matter how much grief, how much sorrow -- and at the end of it all there is only more grief, more sorrow, and his life will go on that way, no help for it now You see something beautiful in a child, and you almost live for it, you feel as though you would die for it, but it isn't yours to keep or to protect. And if the child becomes a man who has n o respect for himself, it's just destroyed till you can hardly remember what it was ... It's like watching a child die in your arms." [pg. 294]

This book is a companion piece to Robinson's Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead. Those who have read Gilead will recognise that this family appeared in that book. This book is entirely set in 1961 and Reverend Ames and his family play a small part in this tale. Those who enjoyed Gilead will most certainly enjoy Home.

To me, Home, is the better of the two. The depth of characterization is tremendous and the essence of life and death hangs in the air throughout the book. There is a lot of dialogue in this story and less theological dissertations than Gilead, which I must admit my mind wandered through somewhat. Though there is a heavy Christian theme of redemption and grace. I did find the ending rather anti-climatic though as both Gilead and Home present a secret that Jack is keeping and the secret is revealed at the end of both books so once one book has been read the secret seems pointless as a plot point in the other.

Though Home is independent of Gilead and publishers are promoting that they can be read as stand-alones. I think there is a knowledge of Jack, an insider's viewpoint, that strengthens his character in Home which readers who have not previously read Gilead will not recognize. Therefore, I recommend the books being read in the order they were published. If characterization is more compelling to your reading than a fast moving plot you will enjoy Home very much, as will anyone who has read and enjoyed Gilead.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Monday New Review Books in the Mail (on Tuesday)

Last week I received 2 review copies. The second one of them came unsolicited but it looks very good so I'm not complaining. So back to the arc tbr pile. Last week's stats are two books in and two books read and reviewed ...so the pile is exactly same size as it started!

Plus Puss Reboots sent me an old childhood favourite and I won one of her contests, receiving "The Fourth Watcher". Thanks Puss!

Sunday, September 7, 2008


2008 U8 Soccer Champ!!! We had a busy weekend with soccer game after soccer game as my 8yo's team made it to the Finals this morning and his team won the Champions. This is the 8yo's first trophy and he's very proud.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

OT: Politics

I will be talking politics occasionally over the next couple of months as we are about to have an election here in Canada soon. So I'm just giving the word up that if you are left-wing you'll probably just want to skip these posts.

I watched McCain's acceptance speech the other night and was just blown away with it. What an amazing man, with such character and vision. I found myself clapping when he talked about education.

I'm not what you could particularly call a politically minded person and I could easily get in over my head but I do know what I believe in.

I asked my husband why we couldn't have politicians here in Canada who make speeches like that and he said because they would be ridiculed. There is no way a Canadian politician could talk about being a war hero or talk about patriotism. If you are a patriotic Canadian then people automatically assume you're a redneck.

Our greatest Canadian patriot is Don Cherry, a hockey commentator, and the 'elite' of Canada (ie.left-wing liberal media) make fun of him because he is so patriotic.

Hopefully, Harper will win a majority government this time around and Canada can continue to regain respect worldwide since he has put money into our previous shambles of a military. I know of what I speak, being an army wife in my younger days.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

150. Getting the Girl

First of all can you believe this is my 150th book I've read this year? Yikes! I can hardly believe it myself.

Getting the Girl: A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and Cookery by Susan Juby

Pages: 339
Finished: Sept. 4, 2008
First Published: Sept. 19, 2008 (CAN), Sept. 30, 2008 (US)
Genre: YA, realistic fiction
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada. Qualifies for the Canadian Challenge.

This book came as an extra. I had requested two YA books and they were packaged together with this one as a boxed set of ARCs. I was not too thrilled with the looks of this and wasn't sure if I would read it. I have no interest in modern teen high school life. It doesn't apply to me and never will. But I decided I would give it a try since it looked like a quick read.

First sentence:

I was sitting on the old blue bleachers with Dini.

Comments: Fourteen year old Sherman lives with his mum, who happens to be a burlesque dancer and was very young when she had him. Entering his first year of grade nine at the local high school, he, along with the rest of his old class mates, are worried about the horrendous act of "Defiling" which has gone on at the school for years. Many think it is just a rumour until they see their first defiling themselves. A picture of a girl appears on bathroom mirrors all over the school, with a letter "D" on it, then tales of the girl's s*xploits, STD's and general skankiness are spread through the school within minutes. The girl is then both shunned and bullied forever and they often leave the school emotional messes.

Sherman, your regular red-blooded Canadian teenager, decides to investigate to find the Defiler before the girl he likes becomes defiled herself, plus he finds himself getting into closer and closer contact with the 'hot' girls during his quest.

I was really surprised with the detective aspect of the book. It was what I mainly found myself interested in and it was quite funny. In fact the book had several laugh out loud moments. I really enjoyed Sherman's voice; he was a real kid dealing with puberty, hormones and friendship. The book had a very fast pace, the chapters were short so it was always easy to keep telling myself just one more chapter. The book is well written and I'm sure the intended audience will love it.

Personally, I would have loved it; if not for the fairly frequent vulgar language and the very frequent s*xual talk and innuendo between 14 year olds.

Monday, September 1, 2008

149. Jolted

Jolted by Arthur Slade

Pages: 203
Finished: Aug. 31, 2008
First Published: Aug. 11, 2008
Genre: YA, mystical realism
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada. Canadian Challenge.

First sentence:

Newton Starker knew that he would likely die from a lightning strike.

Comments: For generations the Starker family members have been killed by lightning strikes. As a matter of family pride the family also names the children born to the female members with the last name "Starker". Newton Starker's mother has recently succumbed to her fate and upon her death Newton decides he would like to move away from his dad and the specially built concrete dome they live in to go away to a special boarding school, the "Jerry Potts Academy of Higher Learning and Survival", in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The schools main focus is teaching survival skills even to the extreme.

Newton lives his life by a set of rules his mother invented for him and the list is revealed throughout the book. There are two Starkers left alive: Newton, and his great grandmother Starker, a sour puss of an old lady living in an old folks home. Newton's mother visited her regularly and now Newton continues after his mother's death. He tries to find out the cause for her longevity but when she reveals her secret he's not sure he could possibly follow suit.

The book is populated with interesting characters. Newton himself is a determined young man living against the odds, his best friend is a wanna be fantasy writer whose first published book is one long sentence. His makes a rival of a girl and they are always trying to one up each other. The teachers are unique characters themselves, as is the school proper.

A very fun and interesting take on the boarding school story. Not really fantasy, but certainly not realism, this is a tough book to categorize to a genre but those who enjoy a strange tale will enjoy this. I find myself wanting to dare to compare with the now infamous Harry Potter books but while the story is nothing like them I do think this will appeal to those who enjoyed the boarding school and eccentric teachers side of those books. While the book does have a definite ending, I see an opening for a sequel and would love to meet up with these characters again.